When the solar system decides she likes Saturn and wants to put it on a ring, she assembles the most stunning, intricate puzzle, so it's not surprising that scientists still assemble how it works. For centuries Saturn rings seemed simple if they were beautiful – while the NASA spacecraft arrived on the planet in 2004 and began to reveal their complexity. Now, nearly two years after the end of the mission, researchers are still publishing new studies that are trying to better understand the features based on the data collected by the spacecraft.
"By approaching the rings, getting higher resolution images and spectra, we are beginning to get new perspectives, some of the best views so far of some of the dynamics and evolution of what is happening in the rings of Saturn "Linda Spicker, a scientist in the Cassini project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California
Related: Photos: Saturn's Glorious Rings Are Near
co-author of a new document detailing some of Cassini's strange features Only within Saturn rings . "What is exciting is when we get closer, we've just seen more and more structure in the rings," she said. What appeared to be distant, flat, boring leaves turned out to be living structures adorned with small traits and gaps.
Some of the details are clear proofs of change, such as a series of bruises caused by the interaction between the rings and Little Moon Daphne .
And scientists still understand what causes these details. "A lot of the structure, we do not understand what supports it in the long run," said Spilker. "We know that the ring particles merge at least for a short period of time … maybe some of the largest particles even create spaces around them."
The new book describes some of the structures that appear to have been created in this way, which scientists have nicknamed propellers for their jagged shape, similar to the blade that appears against the smooth strips of the rings. Other features are more sophisticated: small changes in the structure or composition of the rings that make the pieces look uneven or rough.
Cassini stopped collecting data in September 2017 to dive into the atmosphere of Saturn to burn, but scientists still have the data of the spacecraft and know there are still many mysteries. "I think in many ways we just removed the cream from the top of the data," Spilker said.
New research and hypotheses based on Cassini's data are described in three papers published today (June 13th) in